On this date in 1667 English writer John Milton sold the copyright for Paradise Lost for the seemingly insignificant sum of £10.
Even more galling in retrospect, given that Paradise Lost is now considered one of the greatest literary works in the English language, is that Milton didn’t even get all his money up front.
He received £5 outright and a further £5 to be paid each time a print run of between 1,300 and 1,500 copies sold out, as the blog Armchair Anglophile points out.
Given that Milton died in 1674 as a second edition was being planned, he therefore reaped but one extra payment of £5.
In fairness, that’s worth a total of about £15,000 today, but given that millions of copies of Milton’s book have been printed over the centuries, it still seems like a paltry sum.
The Toronto Globe and Mail called Milton’s rendering of the Fall of Man “the greatest epic poem in the English language, the anvil of words on which every subsequent poem has been forged, the only contender to Shakespeare’s greatness, (and) quite possibly the most profound meditation on good and evil ever written.”